Thursday, November 18, 2010

For the greater good...

- - -

Currently running (not all simultaneously) Folding@Home, AQUA@Home, and from the list of distributed computing projects.

Donated to Wikipedia. After all, I use it many times every day :-P

I would like to think that I'm helping out... even when I'm goofing... especially when I'm goofing.

MIT OpenCourseWare: I'm invested

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Amount of responsibility is (approximately) proportional to the number of keys owned

- - -
Or perhaps to the weight of the keys, but I think that's a weaker correlation.

Keys unlock doors. Keys catalyze. Keys open up dimensions.

Or just locks one into the daily humdrums.

I returned half of my keys some weeks back, and I'm enveloped by an unbearable lightness of uncertainty in momentum space. Where to go from here?

If I spin my set of keys on the lanyard, lasso-style, and let it fly tangential to my peripheral field of view, I can see dragonflies rising from the dews. They dragonflies I see are free, free from the laws of Nature and physics.

My key set flies parabolic across a scrapyard of abandoned space-time fragments. No resistance. It will fly forever.

And I might not even miss it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Some random thoughts in the past week or so

- - -
(1) Stereotypes reduce the spectral richness of the world from continuous Lorentzians to discrete Dirac deltas.

(2) Every snippet I read in Ann Lauterbach's The Night Sky projects a multidimensional array of imagery and ramifications. Meanings morph with space and time. At a particular moment, she could not have quoted Richard Feynman better...

(3) Doctors of Philosophy nowadays usually don't get very philosophical in the traditional sense. But the name stuck somehow.

(4) I don't think having many separate online identities represents a disjoint self. In fact, quite the opposite...

(5) My new rig will be composed of an all-star cast with a first-time director/ system integrator.

(6) I like dragonflies. I associate them with a freedom of a sort of carefree youth. Seeing them hovering above the RNB lawn makes me happy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Les updates...

- - -

(10:13:12 PM) Friend: How's life?
(10:13:38 PM) Me: For the last 3 days... (insert google spreadsheet link)
(10:13:47 PM) Me: parts list for my new desktop
(10:15:21 PM) Friend: Having fun with that?
(10:17:38 PM) Me: yes
(10:17:41 PM) Me: a little too much
(10:17:49 PM) Me: I think I need to make sure my parts are compatible.
(10:18:01 PM) Me: although I think they should be... unless I missed something
(10:18:39 PM) Friend: You sure have done your research
(10:20:14 PM) Me: Yes
(10:20:28 PM) Me: Now I have headache from reading too many webpages, sigh
(10:20:55 PM) Friend: You could take a break.
(10:21:21 PM) Me: Yes, but I forgot
(10:21:22 PM) Me: oops
(10:21:30 PM) Me: was too possessed.
(10:21:53 PM) Friend: Girls do like shopping.
(10:22:04 PM) Friend: Not always for desktop parts.
(10:22:29 PM) Me: That's right
(10:22:39 PM) Me: I'm not like most girls, but I also like shopping.
(10:22:48 PM) Me: for media.
(10:22:53 PM) Me: and gadgets.
(10:23:13 PM) Friend: I didn't know you're a gadget person.
(10:23:27 PM) Friend: I bought a bluetooth dongle for $2 today.
(10:23:50 PM) Friend: I couldn't figure out how to get pictures from my phone to my computer using it.
(10:24:15 PM) Friend: It was a sad moment
(10:25:05 PM) Me: oh nooo!
(10:25:32 PM) Me: it's doable though right?
(10:25:37 PM) Me: any manual?
(10:26:11 PM) Friend: Well I finally realized that my phone is crippled by verizon to make it hard.
(10:26:18 PM) Me: ohh
(10:26:22 PM) Me: rawr.
(10:27:51 PM) Me: yeah, when one thinks about it, it's a miracle that RF devices work at all.
(10:28:24 PM) Me: To quote one of the Intel fellows in the panel today... the director of the RF stuff
(10:28:42 PM) Me:
(10:29:15 PM) Me: Intel is certainly good at making taglines for the giant banners I saw.
(10:29:53 PM) Friend: I see.
(10:31:29 PM) Friend: I only recently learned that bluetooth is named after a guy named bluetooth.
(10:32:04 PM) Me: I didn't know that hahah
(10:32:17 PM) Me: Imagine if he had a different name
(10:32:25 PM) Me: Like Greenbutt
(10:32:55 PM) Friend: Yeah, harold bluetooth
(10:33:12 PM) Friend: I haven't heard of any vikings named greenbutt.
(10:33:56 PM) Friend: The best name I've heard of so far is erik bloodaxe.
(10:34:11 PM) Me: ohohoh
(10:34:13 PM) Me: That's killer.
(10:35:03 PM) Me: People were joking about Wolf Blitzer being too tame for his name, but I don't know enough about him to have an opinion on that :P
(10:36:21 PM) Friend: Maybe I will rename my cat erik the bloodaxe
(10:36:44 PM) Friend: He did slay a giant roach today.
(10:37:23 PM) Me: niiiice
(10:37:30 PM) Me: how big was the roach?
(10:37:57 PM) Me: (I guess it was in the kitchen)
(10:39:20 PM) Friend: It was trying to hide under the sofa I was napping on, and it was the size of a large human thumb.
(10:40:15 PM) Me: That's pretty scary.
(10:40:28 PM) Me: Then again, many scary things in the tropics.
(10:40:47 PM) Friend: Yeah.
(10:41:04 PM) Friend: The cat keeps the bugs away at least.
(10:41:21 PM) Friend: crickets, wasps, roaches
(10:41:34 PM) Friend: He's been catching a lot of them lately.
(10:42:15 PM) Me: yayyy
(10:42:20 PM) Me: Kitty power!
(10:42:56 PM) Friend: At least he's good for something.
(10:43:46 PM) Me: awwwwww
(11:05:51 PM) Me: I need to consult gadget geeks about my parts list
(11:06:18 PM) Friend: Do you think it's not a good list?
(11:07:13 PM) Me: I need to make sure parts are compatible
(11:07:18 PM) Me: then I should be set to oder
(11:07:20 PM) Me: order
(11:07:50 PM) Me: and the building/verifying is another mountain
(11:08:35 PM) Friend: What would you need to verify.
(11:09:44 PM) Me: That the connections go with one another.
(11:09:54 PM) Me: plugs and sockets and pins are the right types.
(11:10:00 PM) Me: etc.
(11:12:39 PM) Friend: I doubt it'll be a problem.
(11:13:49 PM) Me: I hope not
(11:13:57 PM) Me: I think the more likely problem is parts DOA
(11:14:17 PM) Me: Like each part has a 5% chance of that
(11:14:26 PM) Me: so 8 parts means... hahahha
(11:14:40 PM) Me: 0.95^8 =
(11:15:31 PM) Friend: It looked like you were buying good brands.
(11:15:36 PM) Friend: I think you'll be ok.
(11:16:55 PM) Me: haha I hope
(11:18:09 PM) Friend: I didn't have any problems when I built this desktop, but I guess that was 7 years ago.
(11:18:24 PM) Me: hahahhaha
(11:18:37 PM) Friend: The only parts that died so far was the psu, which I've replaced twice already.
(11:18:38 PM) Me: I had a desktop in 2000? 2001
(11:18:44 PM) Me: and it lasted until a few months ago
(11:18:51 PM) Me: when a cap exploded inside
(11:18:51 PM) Friend: Also the caps on the video card exploded.
(11:18:57 PM) Me: yess.s
(11:19:03 PM) Friend: Oh.
(11:19:10 PM) Friend: Well for me only the video card died.
(11:19:16 PM) Me: wow
(11:19:20 PM) Me: and HD were okay?
(11:19:23 PM) Me: nice.
(11:19:26 PM) Friend: I just switched to an older pci one lying around.
(11:20:09 PM) Friend: I heard bad caps are a common problem.
(11:23:15 PM) Me: yup
(11:32:34 PM) Friend: Finally learned how to take pics off phone.
(11:32:54 PM) Friend: So annoying.
(11:33:04 PM) Me: sigh!
(11:42:51 PM) Me: rawr sleep time soon
(11:43:28 PM) Friend: later
(11:44:17 PM) Me: later
(11:44:30 PM) Me: gnight

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All is fair in food and love... and improvisational recipes

- - -
After more than ten years of dormancy, I have baked again. Cake for a surprise birthday celebration... like more than two months early... LDR, sigh!

I have significantly revised this recipe... this is what I actually used:
(1) 1 pack TJ's Vanilla Cake Mix
(2) 8 (~1" by ~1"by ~0.2") squares of 70% cocoa dark chocolate
(3) About 200ml of assorted nuts
(4) 3 large eggs
(5) ~1 cup (organic?) vanilla soy milk

I crushed the chocolates and nuts (butter substitute) and mixed everything... one ingredient at a time at andante pouring rate. The cake batter felt starchy and thick (like really thick puke, I thought). I added another egg because the cake mix was more than I expected. :-P

Took about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F and 10 more minutes at 250 degrees F. It has the consistency between a cake and a cookie. I think it was the extra egg... maybe I'll call it a cakie. :-P Actually, it's most like a giant muffin. Giant muffin!

No fruits went in the oven because I like to preserve their vitamins. I added them on after the cakie's been completely baked. In lovely geometric patterns. With subtle 90-degree rotational quasi-symmetry (quasi because my makeshift cake pan is not exactly a rectangle...)

Didn't come out too badly I think...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Electric keyboard music synthesizer... and random kindness from strangers

- - -
Went a few stops on the train (extra stop on weekends, which I didn't realize...) to get my synth today. It was not an impulse purchase, but the act of actually going out and getting it had been... somewhat impulsive. I was stupid and got off one stop early, which I promptly realized after I got off the rather crowded (sardine/farmed salmon/or any farmed animal) train... Dodger's game, apparently.

I then proceeded to walk to the next station, which I gave up after about 20 minutes of walking approximately north, because I had no map and the roads were unfamiliar and too confusing. I did pass through a rather nice residential neighborhood just around that station... front gates, large (expensive) houses, expansive yards, sequoia trees... right outside the town limits though was a ghetto-like area, which I decided not to venture into and therefore turned back and waited for the next train.

When I got off (at the right stop this time), I found the main road pretty quickly. However, I had a fake memory that the street number started with a 3 and has four digits... so I walked in one direction and realized the numbers were decreasing... and turned and walked in the other direction... for ~15 minutes... before realizing that I must have remembered the wrong street number. So I turned back... and sure enough, my original path was in fact correct... as the music store was pretty close to the train stop.

The actual process of buying the synth was a lot faster than I expected... because I got the only model that was around my price range ~$300. There were many models that were 3 to 7 times that... seriously professional :-P.

I asked around the AC adapter and the foot pedal, and the store staff recommended the "survivor's kit" that included the adapter, foot pedal, cheap headphones, 2 CD-ROM guides, and 2-year warranty "for free"... the kit was originally about $40, but since I was getting that synth plus the stand (~$20), the store staff essentially gave me a "rebate" of sorts. And I mentioned that I'm a semi-local student, haha.

He asked another store staff to cart everything to the train station. (That was unexpected.) I asked them to tape all the boxes together before that :-P They were quite nice. I think I'm going back there again... if only because in my excitement I forgot to tip the guy for carting my synth...

Shortly before the train came, a random dude asked me if I needed help carrying *that big box* hahah... he looked like a late-undergrad or early-grad student. And yes, he was very familiar with the whole geek-kid-trying-to-relearn-piano deal. That help offer was also unexpected, but very welcomed since after moving it myself... I could definitely use some help... So he and I carried the box on the train and off the train. He had to get back on the train because he was going to a later stop than I was.

After getting off my stop, I carried it by myself for about five minutes and... met another person who offered to help me! Turned out she was also a student at the Farm, and was just going grocery shopping so "had plenty of time to spare" :-P She majored in a science during undergrad (that *other* school), and did some lab work for a few years, and then... decided to major in history/philosophy of science/technology for grad school. Fascinating huh. We had a great convo, and I think I might drop by her research group's office because for some reason she's not in the email system. I do know her full name though. Maybe she goes by a different name... oh well...

Hahaha, quite an adventure for this one today. And it's been a very long time since I was this excited... months? :-P wow that sounds sad, ooops.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

WTF taking food metaphors way too far

- - -
The ancient Chinese (and probably in other cultures too) have said something to the effect of: Before the age of 20, one's countenance is the responsibility of the parents; after the age of 20, that becomes the responsibility of oneself.

So on the morning ride in the company shuttle today, I realized that my face is contorted in a position that seems to indicate someone owes me $10 trillion. In an artificial and bizarre attempt to prevent my face from permanently frozen in a frowny scowly pout, I decided to think of ways to make cakes that look like the corporate buildings I see along the way from the train station to my office.

McAfee was the easiest. Horizontal brown and black stripes. Regular chocolate and dark chocolate. NetLogic... a little trickier. I think some relative of taro works for the lighter parts. For the bluish-green parts... gelatin. Hahahaha.

So freaking pathetic.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The "Fairchild 8", a.k.a. "Fairchildren"

- - -
Watched documentary. NY Times columnist Tom Friedman said in the film that "in Japan in the 1970's, Bob Noyce was [famous] like Brittany Spears. It's too bad that in America, Brittany Spears is Brittany Spears." :-P

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Interpersonal dynamics

- - -
I try to be a positive presence in my work environment. I think smiling helps. And posting artworks in my cube. And picking up fallen posters with thumb pins sticking up from the floor.

I also try to send updates to people. Network Protocol 101 (think TCP/IP... note the double-meaning here... I love entendres)... although I've been a little behind in updating my research advisor on my recent happenings. Mostly because I consider them to be the usual stew of big-company acclimatization.

Those Enneagram types... I seem to have a strong element of Types 4, 5, 6, moderate 1, 8, 9, and weak 2, 3, 7. Which is completely expected. I like the descriptions of what's the "best" version (i.e. self-actualization) of each type. And on the other ends of the scale too, guilty as charged.

It's good to have goals, hopes and dreams...

Like being Forever 22.

I wonder if my alum mentor thinks I don't like to admit failures. Although it turns out we failed at the same thing. He's an engineer -> entrepreneur -> venture capitalist. Back in grad school days he was a bona-fide lab rat, and loved it. Though his dad had always told him it's good to be self-sufficient, hence the move to start-ups.

I really want to learn more about start-ups from him... because I will likely do that at some point. It feels awesome to be among a group of kindred spirits united in the same goals (i.e. I knew these people by their screen names before meeting them IRL, ROFL.)

I suppose my high school guidance counselor might be right about me after all. Really few people understood me back in high school...

Saturday, June 12, 2010


- - -
Shortly after sunset, the sprinklers near White Plaza synchronize their parabolic sprays in a misty, mystic dance. Very contemplative. Meditative. Dangerous for bikers with tendency to stare at such.

While I was admiring this choreography, I noted the streams of water running on the pavement. I'll bet if there's a way to not waste water like this, the university would save a good amount of money.

How about sensors that can adjust spray rate according to... say relative humidity?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cell phone likes to run away from meee [UPDATE]

- - -
I have been debating about getting a phone holder because today was the second time I almost said bye bye to my phone...

First time was in NYC LGA (airport) last year, though I got it back by asking the nearest staff at the spot where I thought lost it. Someone was nice enough...

Second time was today in the company cafeteria. I saw it next to a cash register of one of the cafe staff...

In both cases, it took me somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour before I realized I lost my phone. I was pretty fortunate, though I don't know how much more luck I can still stretch...

* * *

Sooo........ the next day (2010.06.10), I went to the campus bookstore and got a phone holder. It has a Velcro strap that loops around one of my jeans' belt holder straps. Most notably, it seems to be made of grass-green cellulose hemp-type fiber. I'm falling for the whole "eco-friendly" deal, as the hemp one was $10 more than the leather one. Well... I anticipate that I might need to wash this at some point, so...

I also got another pair of earbuds that I'll just keep in my backpack so I can listen to my iPod or when I need audio in a public computer terminal. I hope these are worthy investments.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Awesome retro inkjet printer

- - -
Fzz gave me the link - I was like, this makes a totally awesome 6.115 project.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Super long entry of self-reflection... why do I like this kind of stuff?

- - -
Career Inventory Test Results

Extroversion ||||||||| 30%
Emotional Stability ||||||||||||||| 50%
Orderliness ||||||||||||||| 43%
Altruism |||||||||||| 33%
Inquisitiveness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 80%

You are an Architect, possible professions include - strategic planning, writer, staff development, lawyer, architect, software designer, financial analyst, college professor, photographer, logician, artist, systems analyst, neurologist, physicist, psychologist, research/development specialist, computer programmer, data base manager, chemist, biologist, investigator.
Take Free Career Test
personality tests by

I think I was right in calling myself "Architect of Metaphors".

Personality Disorder Test Results
Paranoid |||||||||| 38%
Schizoid |||||||||||||||| 62%
Schizotypal |||||||||||||||||| 78%
Antisocial |||||||||| 34%
Borderline |||||||||||| 50%
Histrionic |||||||||||| 46%
Narcissistic |||||||||||||| 54%
Avoidant |||||||||||| 42%
Dependent |||||||||||| 42%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||||| 50%
Take Free Personality Disorder Test
personality tests by

I guess this means I'm strange, but I already know that. I must be bored ROFL.

Maslow Inventory Results
Physiological Needs (10%) you appear to have everything you need to survive physically.
Safety Needs (37%) you appear to have a very secure environment.
Love Needs (54%) you appear to be semi-content with the quality of your social connections.
Esteem Needs (50%) you appear to have a medium level of skill competence.
Self-Actualization (55%) you appear to have an average level of individual development.
Take Free Maslow Inventory Test
personality tests by

Hmmm, this one doesn't tell me very much that I don't know already... the Free Advanced Big 45 Personality Test has more info, it seems. I ordered my tendencies from most to least...

my score

low score
high score

not self-reflective




instinctive, non-analytical

intellectual, analytical


lacks curiosity

mental explorer

Mental Self-Sufficiency

intellectually dependent

intellectually independent

practical, realistic

dreamer, unrealistic


competitive, war-like

agreeable, peaceful

Mental Agility

slow to understand


unreflective, coarse

lover of art and beauty

relaxed, oblivious

detail-oriented, anal

synthesizer, iconoclast

reckless, unscheduled

careful planner

insensitive, schizoid

respectful, sympathetic


out of tune with others

in tune with others


lacks new ideas

innovative, novel

break/ignore the rules

play by the rules


aloof or disagreeable

gets along with others

unreliable, lazy

finisher, follows through

Impulse Control

lacks self-control

maintains composure


highly emotional

emotionally contained


demanding, controlling





leisurely, derelict

strict, rule-abiding


inattentive, undisciplined

prepared, focused

disinterested in others

supportive, helpful

irrational, random
direct, logical


socially inconsiderate

socially conscious


easily frustrated

calm, cool


needs instant gratification

delays instant gratification

unhappy, dissatisfied
self content, positive

touchy, volatile
even tempered, tolerant


careless, error-prone


cold-hearted, selfish

warm-heated, selfless


timid, gun-shy

controlling, aggressive

stays in background

prefers to lead

modest, plays it safe

bold, uninhibited, cocky

disorganized, random

deliberate, clean



hypersensitive, moody



withdrawn, hidden

open, inviting

private, contained

open, revealing


emotionally volatile

emotionally neutral


uneasy around others

socially comfortable


quiet, reclusive

engaging, socially bold

Group Attachment

loves solitude

prefers to be with others


quiet, invisible


When I'm in a good mood, I'm INfj, and when I'm in a bad mood, I'm Intj. Upper cases are stronger tendencies. The most important message from the Play class I took (that I don't think gets emphasized enough) is that people should align their play-state with their work-state as much as possible. I wonder what that means in my case...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Singularity is near!

- - -
And no, the NEMSSS seminar today did not involve giant Madagascar cockroaches. It did involve cybborrg beettles, complete with implanted chips inserted during pupal stage.

The chip talks to the remote control and stimulates muscles that pull on the exoskeleton that creates a mechanical resonance to flap the wings. With directional control by individual pulse train stimulation on left vs. right wing. The speaker was a former student of my PI. He was very energetic like a boy with his favorite toy.

He was also very eager to discuss the ethical issues about controlling beetles, etc. I think that he's only interested in it as an intellectual debate. N from my group thinks that if it were our PI, he would be more inclined toward the "don't hurt the beetles because it causes pain" side.

The study is basically funded by DARPA. Surprise surprise!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Random thoughts

- - -
(1) Healthful food is very important. I feel my brain power increase by 30% when I have such food vs. when I don't. The local farmer's market is awesome.

(2) I should remember to listen to certain music when I'm angsty, rather than defaulting to TV shows. Although for me, watching TV is a response to events in life, and the kind of TV shows I watch is highly correlated with the kind of event that has occurred.

(3) I'm sketching again. I wonder if that's good... I mean, TV show fandom :-P

(4) I need to feel extreme angst or extreme ecstasy in order to be able to write inspired poetry. This is of course conditioned on my ability to be coherent, with attention span longer than about 30 minutes at a time. (I like this poem. I like most poems by this poet, actually.)

(5) The reader can probably tell that my research has been stagnating.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stuff I learned recently

- - -
(1) My PI was going to be a professional baseball player before hurting his shoulder in college.

(2) He's also very good at volleyball and ping pong.

(3) Two students are married in my lab. I thought there was only one. A third is getting married this June. This is of course not counting the two post-docs who are married as well.

(4) Administrative chores really don't mix well with running a research lab and teaching and advising. This means someone else should be the SSNNNFF director. :-P

(5) My PI used to be more energetic and told more jokes during lab meetings... before the recession.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Five Fruit Frenzy

- - -
I love it.

There was a buy-one-get-one-free special going on at the campus Jamba Juice, so I got two original size for $4.70. And I was biking while holding both of them. Not such a good idea, I know :-P

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Entertaining group meeting

- - -
The presenter today had a definite comedic bent. He was talking about his latest work in the SSNFFF named "Grand Canyon III". It's a modified etching process for a silicon-based photonic/MEMS device that he's been working on.

He talked about Grand Canyon I and II, what was done, and why they failed. He described the failures with a satirical twist. "Everything works great! But only if you need [insert specific case]."

He also drew an analogy for different flavors of fabrication processes.
Plain vanilla: traditional process
Vanilla with colorful sprinkles: adapted for photonic crystals
Chocolate: with extra oxidation step
Chocolate chips, melted and flopped over: Grand Canyon I and II

There was a monstrous flowchart on a bunch of the slides, which made me shudder. He then proceeded to trace over various paths that he took over the years.

My PI: That should go on a PHD comic.
Group: Hahaha... hahahaha...

My PI was really excited about the progress. Yay!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Developmental psychology and self-reflection

- - -
"In early childhood there is usually a passionate attachment to parents," according to this source. Hmm, I don't remember that part, and I remember a fairly representative collection of my experiences since age ~3. I know the main reason for that, but I won't talk about it here.

As part of an orientation activity for a group, we were asked "what is our favorite age (in our life)?" I answered 13. The response I received was "hmm, very curious, that's a common least favorite age." I think this is because I never experienced the distinct phase of adolescent rebellion. It was delayed instead until undergrad, and it unfolded in a rather suboptimal form.

There is a reason(s) why I'm such a psychology buff for an engineering student. I'm gradually coming to terms with these events, even though I might not necessarily absolve the responsible parties. (The word choice here does not reflect a god-complex.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Visit to local elementary school

- - -
For our project #2, we're designing a hands-on education experience for 4th/5th graders. This time I'm teaming with a 2nd-year business school student and a architecture student. This project is sponsored by RAFFFFT, and we'll talk to their staff tomorrow too.

We visited a local elementary school to talk with one of the teachers and her class. She gave us an overview about the kids' curricula and also told specific stories. There's a strong emphasis on environmentalism, such as the part about John Muir, field trips, and a small farm right on school grounds. There were goats, sheep, many chickens, and a garden filled with many crops! O_O Obviously I've been a city and suburbs person most of my life...

The kids do lots of hands-on stuff, which is really nice. Activities like role-playing, reenactments of historical events, "lab" stuff like basic E&M and circuits. I get the sense that the science and math components are kind of weak, but I'm biased :-P They have many books about art and Shakespeare (!) and some exploratory science subjects.

I chatted with Jamie (sp?), who seemed on the quiet side (though from personal experience, 90% of quiet people I've met turned out to the most interesting). She likes to draw and showed me one of her artworks -- a hummingbird (which was for some reason black, but it was nicely-drawn.) I learned that Jamie's dad works at DreamWorks after one of her friends mentioned their show-and-tell from the other day.

She showed me the cube clock that her teacher randomly found in her closet. The clock tells time by rotation of various slices of a truncated corner. Quite fascinating...

Jamie has two cats, one named Mystery (4-year-old) and one named Bobo (9-month old). Bobo roams around a lot while Mystery just likes to be petted :-)

From what I gather, she would probably enjoy some type of artistic design toy. She was subtly more excited when talking about art class and the activities involved. Watercolor and some kind of marble-textured painting with floating a piece of paper over the medium.

Hmmm... maybe I should read up a little on developmental psychology too, about how children's mind at this stage is like. My own childhood is hardly a typical example...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Miracle fruit birthday party

- - -
A friend in my major (will call her K) had a birthday party where we tried out various food -- after tasting a sample of the miracle fruit. It came in raisin form and was packaged like a pill! And indeed, for the first 10 minutes or so, everything tasted sweet. Or sweeter. Lemon, lime, vinegar, grapefruit, raw rhubarb, even cupcakes with goat cheese on top. Brussels sprouts... not so much. :-P The effect seems to have a half-life of about 20 minutes or so, for me at least.

Someone was talking about a MySQL class that she was taking in order to know exactly what she's selling to the software engineers... since she's in management science. Apparently people who have servers in their rooms are also taking this intro class too... why? lol.

A bunch of us were also talking about photography because there were a couple of enthusiasts. One person had a serious Canon camera. She was taking many pictures of the artfully arranged and carved food... like the citrus slices in their glorious 4-point symmetry, as well as the apples cut in a geometrically fascinating manner. The red pepper sticks formed a tepee. I thought that was cute. K and her bf were quite the food architects, haha.

The cake that was semi-spherical and apple green with purple flowers. The candles spelled the birthday girl's name. "You should spell it wrong," said a funny dude, as K's bf was sticking the candles into the cake.

There were three of us who went to the same undergrad institution. Apparently there was an article on CNN (video link here) about how many (rather, some) of the students don't bathe regularly. How embarrassing!!

On the other hand, I mentioned how one of my high school summer camp counselors is totally awesome, to reverse that impression of Institvvvte nerdism! He biked cross-country with his wife on their honeymoon -- pretty intense but awesome :-) I think I can bike twice as fast now as last September, but not for very long. Will have to work on that...

K told me that she got her 10-year-old girl cousin the Snap Circuits as a present a month ago. She originally didn't like it but now plays with it very often, hahaha. Another potential recruit? :-)

Meow, I wish Fzz Fzz were there...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Buying spree

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(1) My bike is now equipped with a 2nd back basket, a proper backlight with flashing mode, a bell on the handlebar, freshly pumped tires and tuned pneumatic brakes. I also got a helmet that I will actually wear. After all, my head is worth more than $20 no?

(2) Also got a $10 mildew-resistant PEVA shower curtain. Got rid of the old one that is... quite colorful... with at least three species of mildew and mold. Ahhh, the new one looks so fresh~ :-P

(3) Need to find waterproof pants. If I can't find any, I might just get athletic pants that dry easily. The rain around here comes with high wind at least half the time, so umbrellas don't really help in that case...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Things I heard from my PI

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My PI tells stories that and go on and on and on and on, which could be really informative and entertaining. A post-doc's helpful suggestion is that whenever I have crucial things to discuss, make a written list and check off during meeting. Else tangents galore!

(1) Back in his grad student days, he was running a wafer process in the fab. A technician apparently turned off the vacuum pump when my PI was not tending to his wafers, and... silane gas everywhere and everyone was evacuated... If not for the quick fixes (pumping nitrogen gas and turning off the toxic gasses), the whole fab might have exploded. There were actual flash fires.

(2) Sandia National Lab currently enjoys a cornucopia of resources. My PI wants to "visit there and absorb the aura" of disposable funding... He has a recent grad who works in the Albuquerque branch, and 3 months into the job she's already dropping by for pointers on applying to faculty positions...

(3) Faculty job slots at 2nd-3rd tier universities are going down. UC schools are getting more consolidated -- Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UCSF, UCSB are getting most of the resources, and the current governor is... not qualified to be a governor.

(4) An enterprising recent PhD grad was thinking of making an RPG to learn about circuits. This is pretty much like what I was thinking about with quantum mechanics! Maybe I could try starting companies. :-P Apparently another student in my group attended the one-month summer entrepreneurship program that I was thinking about going.

My current advisor is on the same caliber as my former advisor in I.O.N, but my former advisor has a (really efficient) secretary and my current advisor does not have any. I blame the stupid funding situation. Although whether my current PI wants a secretary is another question...

Thursday, April 8, 2010


- - -
= Bakemono (化物) + monogatari (物語)

I should have already blogged about this when I watched it w/ S.O. in... January? So this is a belated entry :-P I just felt an irresistible urge to watch some of it again...

Such charm in the exercises of reductio ad absurdum, non sequitur, and subtly blatant -- blatantly subtle -- parodies of anime antics.

The unique factors are (1) the text on bright backgrounds that flashes in accelerated pace until abrupt stop, (2) camera angles and zooms reminiscent of Michel Gondry's films, (3) minimalist visual design and music - Philip Glass style or jazz accompaniment riffs, and (4) absurdist meta-humor.

(1) Typographical, almost subliminal messages really hammer it in... the identical replicas of characters that fill up the screen remind me of Andy Warhol soup cans.

(2) Frequent close-ups of eyes and eye movements, bird's-eye view, up-the-skirt view, spherical projection...

(3) Sometimes it seems neo-noir with the bleached coloring, even more faded-out than that in Minority Report. Almost Impressionistic. However, certain objects are emphasized with bright colors. The music induces a trance, a hypnotic state that juxtaposes with said bright colors (e.g. blue, yellow, and red establishments in the park scene, episodes 3-5).

(4) ROFL... one has to watch the episodes to understand.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mathematics of botanical morphology

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Last weekend I was washing kale leaves and realized that the edges looked pretty much like Koch snowflake curves.

Today I was washing chard leaves and found that when water ran down the underside, it gathered in distinct areas demarcated by veins arranged like Voronoi diagrams.

Mmm dark green leafy vegetables...

Ridiculous prototypes of bouncy chairs

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Um, ROFL... The blue balls are all exercise balls...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Control theory, information theory, neuroscience

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This prof talked about his research interest of engineering brain-machine interfaces. In other words, controlling machines with mere thought, remotely.

He has lots of DoD funding (no surprise...) and the advertisement industry is into this as well (knowing when there's high brain activity upon seeing certain images... even before conscious realization.)

He had occasional strange stutters, which was a tad distracting. I think it's because he spoke very fast and his thought process lagged during moments of stuttering. LOL. I think profs who talk faster in general tend to be easier to follow, assuming coherence.

There is an optimal speed, I've found. But all else being equal, I've found that going too fast is better than going too slow... because the attention level perks up in the former case and wanders elsewhere in the latter case.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Random books of interest

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I was hanging around at the campus bookstore when I came across these titles that caught my attention...

(1) Flanimals - The pop-ups and the bright colors are eye-catching for sure. I was examining how the paper sculptures were folded... very nifty.

(2) The Solitude of Prime Numbers - This has an aura resembling the one in Karl Iagnemma's On the Nature of Human Romantic Interactions, which I've read and loved. However, I'm afraid to read this one for fear of destabilizing myself. Plus this author is in a similar line of work as me, which adds to my (perhaps irrational) fear...

(3) B is for Bad Poetry - This one is hilarious, hands down. Deliberate non sequiturs and purposefully bad taste abound. One of the reviews on the back cover reads: "If talent is measured in miles, then [Russell's] is a driveway." ROFL.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Got key to my cubicle

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Now I officially have a place to work in my lab building. Need to set up the desktop though, assuming there's a spare monitor and keyboard and mouse...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


- - -
On a trip to puzzle & toy shop in Boston, E.D. got me an upgrade for my Rubik's cube that broke a while ago from overuse. This new one is a dodecahedron. Deviously complicated wahahahaha...

Since I don't know enough group theory to work out the solution by myself, I'm following these steps. Although I'm currently stuck on Step 8, because somehow I'm not comprehending this part very well...

One of these days I will figure it out...


- - -
I'm really excited about this class, even though I'm not 100% sure where it will be held, because it was never explicitly stated...

Must be a deep desire to make up for lost play time.

I wonder if I should have become a mechanical engineer instead, but I think it's easier to learn mechE after knowing EE than the other way around, haha.

There have been many times when I imagined myself as an architect. Huh.

Good PI

- - -
My research advisor likes to tell stories. Lots and lots of them. It's quite entertaining. I learn a few things new each time he tells me stories. :-) He's also a wonderful mentor who takes care of his students.

I may not be able to escape fabrication work though, which means I'll be around for a bit.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


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I have a serious dearth of material to put here. In fact, one might see a regression (more like change of style, um?) Dang it, real life!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cheap labor huh

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(11:06:54 PM) friend: Grad school is not about quality of life.
(11:07:12 PM) me: hear hear
(11:07:12 PM) friend: I guess it's actually not that bad depending on the department.
(11:07:20 PM) me: ahahaha
(11:07:42 PM) me: My department is not known for treating students well
(11:08:03 PM) me: but I might have found one of the few profs who is actually nice
(11:09:14 PM) friend: You know, this one time one of my friends in my department got robbed in his office at gunpoint while working late.
(11:09:38 PM) friend: The department would not install security cameras in the building after that. I think physics grad students are actually cheaper than cameras.
(11:09:55 PM) friend: If one dies, just hire another one.
(11:09:56 PM) friend: haha
(11:10:53 PM) me: Who robs physics grad students?
(11:11:03 PM) friend: A tard.
(11:11:13 PM) me: They should just unscrew one of the machines and wheel it off
(11:11:49 PM) me: I think the admins should be robbed at gunpoint.
(11:11:55 PM) me: see how they like it
(11:12:31 PM) me: physics grad students are cheaper than security guards
(11:12:38 PM) me: who watch the cameras
(11:13:03 PM) friend: I think the janitorial staff get paid better.
(11:13:12 PM) friend: Funny enough, they also work really strange hours.
(11:13:27 PM) me: The great state of American higher education.

(11:13:36 PM) friend: The professors go home at 6, and the grad students and janitors are still wondering around the building at midnight.
(11:13:57 PM) friend: One time I saw a janitor waxing a hallway at 3 am.
(11:14:19 PM) me: wow
(11:14:31 PM) friend: Well whatever they get paid they apparently earn it.
(11:14:45 PM) friend: I can't ask them about anything because I don't speak spanish.
(11:16:09 PM) friend: So it turns out if you walk by the main tower on campus early enough in the morning, you can see two mexican grounds keepers raising the american flag on its pole.
(11:16:38 PM) friend: What would the great country of america be without cheap imported labor.
(11:17:14 PM) friend: I suppose I am also cheap imported labor.
(11:17:44 PM) me: yes
(11:17:47 PM) me: sigh.
(11:18:18 PM) me: and non-white Americans are never considered real Americans
(11:18:21 PM) friend: American kids are too smart to do something as laborious as science. They let the foreign kids do that, and stick to becoming doctors and lawyers.
(11:19:13 PM) me: I think they prefer Wall Street bankers, business people, actors, athletes
(11:19:30 PM) me: but proportionally few actors and athletes make it big
(11:19:54 PM) me: and Wall Street tanked lately
(11:20:06 PM) me: so American kids are having a crisis.
(11:20:28 PM) friend: Of course, all the kids that were math majors with me in college, and didn't have the grades to get into grad school got jobs on wall street.
(11:21:14 PM) friend: It really is hard to tell which group is dumber: the ones that went to grad school to torture themselves, or the ones that couldn't make it and destroyed wall st.
(11:21:15 PM) me: America does not reward book smart
(11:21:24 PM) me: hahaha
(11:21:36 PM) friend: There's enough stupidity to go around.
(11:21:40 PM) me: Dumb in different ways
(11:21:49 PM) me: There are many ways to be stupid
(11:22:16 PM) me: Eastern Europeans reward math smarts
(11:22:38 PM) me: They're good at IMO and chess
(11:22:54 PM) friend: I work in a russian group.
(11:23:02 PM) me: case in point
(11:23:03 PM) friend: I think I should learn russian.
(11:23:06 PM) me: :P
(11:23:19 PM) friend: I think I already drink more vodka than them though.